Global PLM software developer Siemens hosts thousands of manufacturing professionals at its annual America’s user conference
Endless jokes about haboobs and dry heat aside, visitors to the Valley of the Sun were recently treated to a dizzying display of software technology at Arizona’s Phoenix Convention Center. From June 4-7, the Siemens PLM Connection—Americas 2018 user conference hosted thousands of visitors from hundreds of manufacturing companies. These include representatives from General Electric, Orbital ATK, United Technologies, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and other industry leaders, all ready to share their experiences while learning everything they could about the latest, greatest developments in product lifecycle management (PLM) software.
There was plenty for them to see and do. A variety of interactive sessions, knowledge theaters, hands-on training, and partner solution displays was available, covering everything from Siemens product announcements (lots of these) to best practices for software deployment to strategies for simulation and collaboration.
Granted, it was hot. Temperatures reached 110°F, as they often do at this time of year, although still well short of the 122°F recorded in 1990. Visitors may have been tempted to fry an egg on the sidewalk (it doesn’t work), but most hurried from session to session, thankful for the excellent air conditioning in the Grand Canyon State.
It wasn’t a week of all work and no play, however. Siemens sponsored several after-hours social events, and for those whose feet weren’t overly sore from a day of conference cruising, downtown Phoenix and the surrounding area boasts an eclectic mix of restaurants and brewpubs, shopping centers and musical venues, not to mention some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States.
Everyone needs good tools. This is true whether you’re a machinist, a chef, or a brain surgeon. For engineers and designers, one of the most important tools is a PLM system, which enables efficient management of a company’s bills of material, manufacturing processes, design documentation, change orders, costing and quality data, and basically anything that touches a product from concept to completion.
Siemens is a world leader in this area. At the center of its extensive product portfolio sits Teamcenter PLM, a flagship product that has just undergone a major facelift. Joe Bohman, senior vice president of Lifecycle Collaboration Software, said the much-anticipated Version 12 would be available for general release at the end of June, and that its users could look forward to a number of enhancements, starting with a more user-friendly interface.
“The latest version of Teamcenter is all about ease of use,” he says. “There’s a new Active Workspace that’s designed to organize common tasks into a centralized home screen, where users can work on all of their daily activities from one place. We recognize that the next generation of users have grown up with computers and software technology, and their expectations for a simple, intuitive, and modern interface are incredibly high. Teamcenter 12 addresses those expectations.”
Less Code, Faster Load
It also addresses speed, a common concern among those who spend their days working with CAD assemblies that may contain tens of thousands of components. “We’ve redone the framework underneath our Active Workspace so that it’s based on reusable building blocks, allowing our development team to eliminate around one-quarter million lines of code from the application,” Bohman says. “This results in page loads that are roughly twice as fast as previous versions of Teamcenter.”
Another thing that engineers and product designers will appreciate is Teamcenter’s virtualization functionality. Don an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or comparable virtual reality (VR) device, push the GoVR button, and you’ll soon be conducting VR design reviews, either alone or as part of a team.
On the fly 2D and 3D views of the “digital twin” are available. Markups are recorded as part of the product history. Installation paths, clearance issues, and ergonomic considerations are easily verified. Says Bohman, “Virtual reality has really improved over recent years. Where it was once considered a little gimmicky, VR has now become an extremely useful tool. It’s a very compelling technology, and we’re very excited to offer it as part of our PLM solution.”
Like practically everyone else in the software industry, Siemens has embraced cloud-based applications in a big way. Teamcenter is just one example of that. Because of the cloud, it and other software packages are more scalable, easier to deploy, and often come with a lower cost of ownership compared to “on-premise” software, an important consideration in the world of high-end engineering systems.
Another example of this is NX, Siemens’ “best in class” CAD/CAM product. Thanks to a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its AppStream 2.0 Graphics Design instances, users have been able to launch NX from within a web browser since late last year. This has opened the door to users that need temporary access to the corporate CAD platform while making collaboration and sharing among teams much simpler.
NX has advanced in other ways as well. Siemens’ announcement that it is moving to a “continuous release” model in January of 2019 took many by surprise, although for most it was welcome news. Continuous release means users receive functional enhancements much more quickly than with an annual or semi-annual product update. It allows Siemens to be more responsive to customer requests, with a “continued focus on release quality and deployment.” And according to a recent press release, it also makes them the first major CAD/CAM/CAE supplier to deliver software in this manner.
NX isn’t the only CAD/CAM platform in the Siemens stable. Solid Edge 2019 also received plenty of attention at the Siemens PLM Connection user conference. Like NX, Solid Edge is available on the cloud. As announced at the conference, it now supports electrical and PCB design, plant and piping layout, additive manufacturing, and offers robust 3D simulation analysis capabilities.
These are all cool features, but the thing that has many at Siemens most excited is Convergent Modeling, a technology available in NX and Solid Edge alike that “allows designers to combine facets, surfaces, and solids in one model without converting data.” Dan Staples, vice president of mainstream engineering research and development at Siemens PLM, says Convergent Modeling represents the next generation of mechanical design, but is available today.
“A number of very exciting things are going on in Solid Edge,” he says. “For example, engineers can now incorporate mesh models into B-rep solids (boundary representations). That’s never been done before. We also have analytic space recognition, which automatically identifies planes, circles, and other part features without user intervention. And generative design, something we incorporated into the product last year, has since been extended beyond purely additive manufacturing purposes to include design for cost or design for weight. It’s also up to 10X faster than the previous version.”
The conference lasted four days. Siemens has eleven product lines, dozens of technology partners, and hundreds of individual products. Their solutions obviously support mechanical design, but there’s also factory automation, manufacturing operations and planning, electrical design automation, performance analytics, and more. Needless to say, there was a lot to take in, but here are a few of the highlights, topics that may inspire you to begin laying out next year’s agenda:
- Because the majority of manufactured products contain software—cars, airplanes, cell phones, and even appliances— the management of code-writing activities and software revisions can make the difference between products that work and those that don’t. Siemens’ Polarion ALM (applications lifecycle management) suite helps companies achieve the former.
- Need to get a firmer grip on your company’s factory floor? Implementing a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) or its big brother, a Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) system, is an excellent place to start. With functions such as advanced planning and scheduling, machine monitoring, and more, MES SIMATIC IT is worth a look.
- Digital twins, simulation, and virtual reality were all popular topics at the Siemens PLM Connection user conference, but if you need to understand the human element of design and production processes, enter the terms “Jack and Jill” and “Siemens” in your favorite search engine. You’ll soon see human avatars that have nothing to do with alien planets but everything to do with ergonomics on the factory floor, the focus of Siemens’ Tecnomatix software.
There’s plenty more—the factory of the future. Mindsphere, Siemens’ software for the Internet of Things. Their TIA Portal. Simcenter and Mentor, a Siemens business. If you’ve never attended one, conferences like these are an invaluable way to learn about this technology while networking with your industry peers. It’s your job to collate your manufacturing, engineering, and design needs before booking a flight to next year’s PLM Connection, this time in Detroit.